I’ve Got Chills, They’re Multiplying

It feels like years since Bob and I have taken a weekend away “just because.” A trip where we weren’t driving to Portland to visit or help one of our kids, and we weren’t visiting family or going to a special event in the Bay Area. So on a recent two-day break from work, we did exactly that. We booked a two-night stay at the Humboldt Bay Social Club, a four-hour drive from Ashland on the Northern California coast, just outside of Eureka. When I saw photos of the lodging, and read that you can buy fresh oysters to barbecue from the attached bar, I knew we should check it out.

Humboldt Bay Social Club is an Airbnb in restored officers’ quarters at Samoa Field, a historic World War II airfield and blimp base. The hanger on the property is a delightful indoor/outdoor bar and event space, and is located on the Samoa Field Airport.

The drive from Ashland is lovely, and on the way we stopped a few times to check out the sites, including a large herd of wild elk just outside Redwood National Park, and a hike on the California shoreline at Patrick’s Point State Park. This part of Northern California is surprisingly rugged and remote, a perfect place to visit during a pandemic. After our hike and picnic lunch, we continued on down to Humboldt Bay, and our unique lodging at the Social Club.

I’ll admit that when we first arrived, I was nervous that we had made a big mistake, because there was so much noise coming from the airstrip. But we quickly realized the airstrip is also home to the Samoa Drag Strip, and an informal drag race was happening (ergo all the noise). After stuffing little wads of toilet paper in my ears, we walked over to check it out, and WOW is all I can say. My drag racing knowledge before this came exclusively from John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, and the real thing is way better.

It seems wild to me, but any car can race during the informal drags at Samoa Field (as opposed to the official bracketed events), as long as the driver is licensed. We watched true suped up drag race cars, complete with parachutes on the back, hurling down the quarter mile track. We also watched a Volkswagen bug, a Chrysler Sebring, and a brand new Dodge pickup truck, to name just a few of the more “regular” cars. A couple of juniors also raced in mini top fuel dragsters (yes, this is a whole new language for me), and they could not have been much older than 10.

Once the drag racing ended, we were ready to relax into our stay at the Social Club. This started with cocktails from the Lobby Bar and appetizers we had brought from home, which we enjoyed in Adirondack chairs in the expansive outdoor area of the Club. With multiple fire pits and barbecue grills, as well as well spaced picnic tables and chairs, the property is well suited for social distancing. We followed up our drinks with 25 fresh oysters for $25, quite a bargain, that we grilled up with a little butter/garlic/parsley sauce. While you can purchase coals, a shucking knife, and other essential items for grilling the oysters, we came prepared with all those items from home. They were absolutely delicious. We finished off the evening with a soak in the outdoor bathhouse, where two clawfoot tubs sit side by side under eucalyptus trees. The tubs are open to all guests, and are tucked inside four wine barrel walls and wooden doors.

We filled our daytime by sitting in the Adirondack chairs on our front porch (Suite #6 is the only one of the four rooms that has its own porch!) and watching the goings on at the airport – on average, one plane lands per day. We were lucky enough to watch the same plane repeatedly working on its takeoffs and landings. We took walks on the completely deserted beach, drives into the neighboring towns of Eureka and Arcata, and more down time just sitting in chairs on Humboldt Bay, listening to the water lapping on the shore. It was restorative, honestly.

I love visiting our kids and other family, or going to sporting events and/or concerts in big cities. But when this pandemic ends, I’m going to find a way to keep quiet, unstructured weekends away in our schedule. And if they can include some oysters and drag racing, even better.

Ladies & Gentlemen – Start Your Engines

I am sure that like me, you used to find travel planning a bit complicated. Researching destinations, checking airfares and hotel accommodations and prices, creating a travel calendar to ensure that the myriad of reservations you make are indeed for the correct days, applying for visas, and more. And all that (and much more really) is before the big day when you double check to make sure that you have your passport, your drivers license, your meds, your charging cables…..and on and on. Well, I hate to break it to you, but COVID is going to add a few things to your travel to do list.

On the encouraging news front, just a few days ago European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen noted that “All 27 member states will accept, unconditionally, all those who are vaccinated with vaccines that are approved by EMA”, which is the European Medicines Agency. That means soon, with proof of an EMA approved vaccine, you’ll be able to travel to Europe. No one seems to be quite sure though what type of proof you will have to provide. And that’s just one of the many new things we’ll all have to consider in the near future for certain, and quite possibly for many years to come.

The reopening of travel comes with a big helping of “buyer beware” for travelers. And with a future so full of unknowns, airlines, hotels, cruise lines, rental car companies and more, are all flying by the seat of their pants. As such, if you’d like to travel any time in the next year, we strongly advise that you get busy planning and be flexible. Also, if you had a trip canceled and are sitting on airline, tour, or cruise credits, you need to stay on top of your travel provider and their plans to take care of folks like you.

Following are a few items of note that we’ve found in our perusing of the travel news over the last few months.

• Flight credits for canceled trips most likely came with a 12-month expiration date. As of now airlines are willing to extend those credits, but you may have to take action to make sure they don’t expire.

• Car rental prices are going through the roof. Last year, to cut costs, rental companies sold off significant portions of their fleets. This is leading to a profound shortage of available cars. The conventional wisdom seems to be to book early and pay in advance. For the very best in car rental advice, and for competitive rates, call Gemut Car Rentals at 800.521.6722 or go to Gemut.com. Full disclosure, this is part of the family biz.

• As noted above, proof of vaccination will be necessary to travel to Europe. While no one knows how the logistics will work, it seems inevitable that you’ll soon be adding a vaccine passport to your stable of required travel documents.

• If you’d like to base your destination choices on vaccine distribution, here’s data detailing the rollouts in Europe and South America.

COVID has undoubtedly made travel a bit trickier and you’ll have some work to do to stay on top of the rules and regulations to be sure to avoid any unexpected twists and turns. On the good side the Department of Homeland Security has pushed back the start date of its Real ID program to May 3, 2023. So that’s one less thing you’ll have to worry about. And although there are likely some bumps in the road ahead, it looks like we’re finally going in the right direction.

I Got to Keep on Truckin’

I feel like a little kid sitting in the back seat of my parents’ car on a seemingly interminable road trip. “Are we there yet Dad? How much longer is it gonna be?” Well, as my Dad would say, we’re still not there yet, are we? But we seem to be getting closer every day and it looks like soon, hopefully, vaccinated Americans will be able to visit Europe.

While we wait, however, for Europe and everywhere else to open back up, it’s good to be reminded that our own country is one of the world’s great travel destinations. Our states, regions, big cities and small towns, offer a remarkable variety of sites, activities, cuisines, and cultures. And of course right now, with just a few reasonable restrictions, we can all travel wherever we want, whenever we want. 2020 was a banner year for national parks and the great outdoors, and 2021 appears to be heading in a similar direction.

So it might be a good time to load up a few duffle bags, pack an ice chest with some cool drinks and yummy snacks, and hit the highways and bi-ways for a great American road trip. And if that’s your plan, Travel Essentials still has you covered.We’re here to assist, and despite COVID-disrupted supply chains, we’ve got a full selection of luggage, duffels and packing organizers from Eagle Creek. We’ve got guidebooks and maps for national parks and regions throughout the USA. We’ve also got comfy and stylish adventure clothing from Patagonia and Royal Robbins, quick-dry underwear from ExOfficio, and, of course, durable socks from both Darn Tough and Smartwool, that are perfect for the trail, the city, and the campground.

And if you’re sticking close to home this summer, we’ve also got great daypacks and waist packs from Osprey, Eagle Creek and Patagonia, brightly colored water bottles from Nalgene and from Oregon’s own Hydro Flask, as well as several local and Southern Oregon hiking books to explore the area right outside your backyard.

So for now, carry on with the carrying on. And in due time, once again, the world will be your oyster.

Note: We are still taking luggage donations for Jackson County Foster Care. Foster care kids often travel between homes with their belongings stuffed into garbage bags. So if you’ve spent your pandemic hours cleaning out your garage and closets, and have gently used luggage, duffle bags, and backpacks that you no longer use, we’ll take them off of your hands and donate them to children who need them.

Maradona, The Hand of God

If you’ve read past issues of our newsletter and committed them to memory, you’ll know I tolerate am passionate about international soccer. I’ve sat bored stiff enraptured at soccer matches in countries all over the world, nodded off during watched countless matches on television, and listened with one ear intently to Bob talk about top players like Franz Beckenbauer, Pelé, and Lionel Messi to name a few.

But perhaps the player I’ve heard most about over the years is Diego Armando Maradona. Born in Argentina, Maradona became famous while playing for Napoli, so a trip to this delightful Italian city in January required a walk down Maradona lane so to speak. I prepped by watching a documentary about Maradona on the plane ride over to Italy, in case I would be quizzed later. It was actually quite fascinating. When introducing Maradona to the city of Naples in 1984, 75,000 people filled Stadio San Paolo, not, mind you, for a game, but rather to just get a glimpse of the 23-year-old phenom.

It’s obvious that Naples is incredibly proud of the seven years Maradona played on the city’s team. Nearly 30 years later, there are reminders of him everywhere. And I should know, because Bob wanted to look at every single one. I waited patiently (?) every time Bob took a picture of a Maradona drawing, poster, statue, or painting. But even my jaded soccer self was entertained by a Diego Armando Maradona shrine at a coffee bar on a cobblestone street in the historic part of Naples. Cafe Nilo has a full-on altar for this soccer “deity” that includes Maradona printed money, images of him as a saint, poems written about him, a lock of his hair, and, in a revolving clear container, wait for it, genuine Maradona tears. If you’re skeptical about this, take a lesson from my experience. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT, question the validity of said items. THEY ARE REAL.

It was worth two delicious cappuccinos at the Cafe to get a glimpse of this shrine, and to feel comfortable taking a picture. Any international soccer fan—like me—definitely won’t want to miss this.

How Long is That in COVID Years?

It’s been a while now, hasn’t it? Back when this all started and most of us figured that at the worst it might go on until mid-summer, I kept my hopes up, looked on the bright side, and crossed my fingers that I’d still be able to head to St. Andrews in October. We all know how that turned out. I know, I’m a member of a very large club. But truth be told, at the same time, I took the opportunity to tune out the travel industry. We’ve been on top of travel news and trends for over 26 years now and I didn’t mind taking a little break. And let’s face it, there was (and is) more than enough other news.

But chatting with the few of our customers who are actually traveling has begun to whet my appetite for adventure. Granted, most of their stories skip all the fun stuff and center on travel hygiene. We’ve heard umpteen tales of travelers arming themselves with N-95 masks and goggles, carrying as much hand sanitizer as possible on board, and thoroughly wiping down every seatbelt, armrest, tray table and seat back with sanitizing wipes. We’ve been told unfortunate tales of passengers (at least two of our customers have referred to them as “jackasses,” and who am I to disagree?) who continually removed their masks only to have flight attendants remind them again and again to wear them properly. And right up there with the wonderful “service” that we’ve come to expect from the airline industry, we’ve heard several occurrences where passengers were promised empty middle seats only to have them filled.

All this first-hand information leads to the realization that for the foreseeable future, travel has become a bit more complicated. Gone are the days when it was as easy as purchasing a ticket, going through security, boarding your plane and then napping for a few hours before waking up in some distant land. To avoid unexpected problems and disappointments, travelers will need to stay on top of this type of news. Fortunately, there are many online sites with the latest travel updates. However, we strongly recommend double-checking and cross-referencing any information pertinent to your specific travel plans, whether with an airline, hotel or Airbnb, or with a country’s embassy if you’re leaving the USA. Here are a few sites and stories we are keeping our eyes on right now.

Hawaii — who doesn’t want to sit on a beach and sip a strong fruity cocktail and forget the troubles of 2020? This story from SFGATE details the many things travelers need to consider and accomplish if they’re currently interested in a tropical paradise vacation. It also illustrates how rules and regulations will likely be in constant flux.

Mexico — Mexico is open to American travelers, by air only (not land), although there are several things to keep in mind before you book.

Middle Seats — Some airlines (I’m looking at you United) have done away with empty middle seats, while others like Alaska Airlines, are still keeping those seats vacant. If in doubt, call your carrier directly.

State Requirements for Visits — While domestic travel is certainly easier, many states do require testing and possibly quarantining.

Maybe you’re not ready to get on an airplane yet, but if, like me, you’re getting a little antsy, these stories will either excite you more, or scare you away entirely. You’re welcome.

What a Long Strange Trip it Continues to Be

Is it just me, or does it feel like the past seven months have actually been two years in disguise? The last time we published our newsletter, we were heading to Southern Italy for three weeks of pasta eating and sightseeing in Naples, the Amalfi Coast, and Lecce, among other places. We returned at the beginning of February, and it quickly became clear to us that life, as we knew it, was about to change. Little did we know by how much.

Well it’s now October, and Travel Essentials is still here. We closed for two months, and have been back open five days a week, with Bob and I manning the store since mid-May. It hasn’t been easy, but the truth is we are fortunate. Just a month ago the Almeda Fire burned almost 3,000 residences in north Ashland, Talent and Phoenix, and so many people—including customers, acquaintances, former employees and community members—lost absolutely everything. It’s sobering to hear people tell you they fled their home with only the clothes on their back.

It has been uplifting however, to watch our community rally in support. From free meals provided by so many local restaurants, to clothing and furniture donations, and even the adoption of families into people’s homes, our Rogue Valley is trying hard to take care of its own. Travel Essentials’ customers have supported our efforts to donate to fire victims as well, and we’ve been able to donate new and used suitcases, backpacks and bags, as well as new underwear (a big need) and even furniture.

There’s still much work to be done, and if you’re looking for a good place to donate, I’d suggest you check out Unete, the Center for Farm Worker Advocacy, www.uneteoregon.org. Unete has established a farm worker and immigrant family relief fund whose monies are distributed directly to families for basic needs like food, gas and other essentials. Unete is also assisting families with navigating community resources.

There’s still work to be done before we get back to travel as well. But I’m confident we WILL travel again. It may not happen as soon as we’d all like, but someday, COVID-19 (and dare I say 2020?) will be a distant memory. We will get on planes again, and travel to exotic places like Angkor Wat and the Pyrenees—two places on our list. Let’s be honest, when COVID is behind us, I’ll be willing to travel to less exotic places as well. I’ll be willing to travel just about anywhere.

So until we’re all back out there adventuring around the world, I know this goes without saying, but please continue being kind, please wear a mask, and please vote.

May You Build A Ladder to the Stars

I’m feeling nostalgic and, perhaps if I’m being honest, even a little weepy as we begin the new year. Maybe it’s because we’re entering a new decade. Or because we just completed our 25th year in business. Or maybe it’s because our two daughters, who now live and work in career jobs in Portland and Seattle respectively – queue Bob Dylan singing Forever Young – just left after spending more than a week at home with us in Ashland. Sigh. Whatever the reason, I can’t help but look back on where we’ve been in the last 25 years, and wonder where the time went.

Our first trip after opening Travel Essentials took us to Croatia, to see my aunts, uncles and cousins in Dubrovnik, and then for 10 days to Italy. Emily and Sarah were 3 and 1 1/2. Yes indeed. We were that family getting onto the airplane with a 10-hour flight ahead of us, where people were most certainly chanting to themselves “not by me, not by me, please don’t let this family sit by me.” We traveled with a huge Eagle Creek rolling duffel bag, filled with diapers, bottles, many changes of clothes, toys, and who knows what else. Jet lag hit Emily hard on this trip. I remember her crying (screaming?) in my aunt’s home when she desperately needed to go to sleep, and me trying to explain to my aunt in broken Croatian how Emily was just tired, and I’m sure she would be in much better spirits the next day. In Italy, I remember thinking there was no way our girls could stay awake until most Italians ate dinner, as late as 9pm!!! Candy, which up until this trip was not a common treat in our house, was a big part of our daily routine. It kept sleepy girls awake in the late afternoon when we didn’t want them to fall asleep, it worked as bribery in quiet museums, and it just gave two frazzled parents a few minutes of peace.

Our next international trip was when the girls were 8 and 6 and we went to Thailand. Their ages made it much easier for traveling, but Thailand was nothing like Europe, and although everyone was very friendly, it was still very foreign to us, and especially to our girls. And it was hot. Boy was it hot. Swimming pools were extremely important, as were cokes and Pringles potato chips. Every day we’d set out for a destination, perhaps a temple, a hike or another sacred site, with the promise that in the afternoon there would be swimming and treats.

It was very fun in each of these countries to go to the store and search for treats that the girls would enjoy. Italy was where we first learned about Kinder Eggs, hollow chocolate eggs with a tiny toy inside. Those entertained the girls for long lengths of time.

We ate plenty of excellent local food in each of these three places. I remember great seafood in Croatia, delicious pasta in Italy, and Pad Kee Mao with chicken in Thailand. I’d be lying however, if I told you we didn’t also eat some American staples too, because there’s only so much fish and stir fry that most little kids are willing to put up with. I remember pizza in Bangkok, salami and bread in Croatia, and in Italy, hamburgers. When we were back home, a friend asked Emily what her favorite part about our trip to Italy was and her reply was the Happy Meal she got at a McDonald’s in Rome. I’m not ashamed. Well, maybe just a little bit.

Our girls now travel on their own, when we can’t all arrange our schedules and take a family trip together. Last summer, coincidentally, they went back to Croatia with their cousin Sam, to see all the family they hadn’t seen in 22 years. They also spent several days in Mallorca, zooming around the island in a convertible Fiat rental car. They’ve added wine and tapas into their travel diet repertoire, but I hope, for old time’s sake if for nothing else, coke and Pringles are still in the mix.

Turning Pages the Old School Way – Why I Use a Guidebook

I am a book lover. I’m not referring to an e-book or audio book (bite your tongue), but rather an old-fashioned crack-open-the-spine-and-turn-the-paper-pages-with-your-fingers book. I’ll read an electronic book when I’m desperate, but I strongly prefer to check a book out of my local library and hold it in my hands while I’m skimming its pages. Thus, it should come as no surprise that I love travel guidebooks as well. When Bob and I are planning a trip, we’ll have two or three guidebooks sitting on our end tables until a few weeks before we depart, when we realize we’ve got to get cracking and make some plans. Customers always ask for my favorite guidebook series, but I honestly don’t prefer one type over another. Rather, I like to take home several and cross reference them, to make sure I’m getting the most information about where I’m going. Here’s an example.

We’re headed out in a couple of weeks to Southern Italy. We’ll fly into Naples, spend a few days there, then rent a car and head south. I’ve been poring over both the Lonely Planet for Southern Italy, as well as Rick Steves Naples and the Amalfi Coast. I’m a big fan of Rick Steves guidebooks, and always take a copy with me if he’s published one for my destination. But Rick is very opinionated, and if he doesn’t think a place is worthwhile, it likely won’t make it into his guidebook at all, so I always use a second guidebook in my planning.

Even though I might not book lodging based on a guidebook recommendation, I still get a great deal of information from them, and can’t imagine planning a trip without one. Rick Steves offers detailed, self-guided walking tours in all major cities. Most Lonely Planet guides provide excellent information on hikes, like the Walk of the Gods hike on the Amalfi Coast, which is not mentioned at all in Steves book. There are excellent restaurant recommendations, detailed descriptions of the best exhibits to see in museums, and shopping suggestions beyond your typical tourist trinket store, to name just a few. Thanks to a guidebook, we’ve bought pastries from a cloistered convent where we never saw the person selling us the goods, we’ve shopped in a hundred year old pottery store, and we’ve skipping a several hour ticket line for the Sagrada Familia.

Guidebooks also provide invaluable information on public transportation, including discounted options for multiple day local transport tickets, ways to skip long ticket lines at museums and other popular sites, how best to plan an itinerary, detailed street maps of cities and towns, and so much more.

Yes, you can find virtually all of this information on the internet. And you can buy electronic copies of guidebooks, and even, from Lonely Planet, chapters of guidebooks online as well. But I’m a strong believer in having as much information in the most accessible place possible, making it as convenient for me as I possibly can. Let’s be real, I aim for everything in my life to be as convenient as possible. The $40ish dollars I’m going to spend on two guidebooks for a several thousand dollar trip are more than worth it in my book. Pun intended.

Hand Me Down My Walkin’ Shoes – Walking in Paris

Among my favorite offerings in Rick Steves’ city guidebooks are his recommended self-guided walking tours. I love to walk, so right off the bat I’m a fan. But his walks also point out unusual and unadvertised highlights that I would never know about otherwise. I’ll read his tidbits aloud to anyone in my party that is willing to listen, and even to those that aren’t (such as my youngest daughter when she was a teenager). Here’s an example.

On our trip to Paris last winter, Bob and I took several of Steves’ Paris walks. One favorite was the Montmartre Walk. On this stroll, Steves’ offered specific directions on how to find often unmarked historic sites, which included the La Maison Rose Restaurant, made famous by a painting from artist Maurice Utrillo.  We saw Pablo Picasso’s studio, the home of Vincent van Gogh, the Moulin Rouge nightclub, and nearby Pig Alley. All accompanied by interesting facts and histories.

Steves’ Left Bank walk led us through the delightful Luxembourg Gardens, a 60-acre park complete with a palace, beehives dating to 1872, 600 varieties of fruit trees – each with identifying signage, chess tables, ponds and more. The walk included a stroll across the Pont des Arts pedestrian bridge, apparently a popular meeting point for lovers, so thanks to Rick I was able to sneak a kiss from my main squeeze (really he’s my only squeeze, unless you count a good book and a soft blanket). And it was fun to stop in the oldest toy store in Paris, Tikibou Jouets, where in addition to unique items for sale, you can browse the collections of antique die cast toys, such as Tintin, Babar, the Little Prince, the Michelin man, and so many more.

And I can’t write about walking tours from Rick Steves’ Paris book without mentioning his Pére Lachaise Cemetery tour. 70,000 people are interred in the cemetery, and Steves’ tour gives specific directions on how to find the tombs of famous artists including Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Édith Piaf, Jim Morrison, and Frédéric Chopin, to name a few. The cemetery is stunning in its own right, with beautiful art deco signage, cobbled streets, and narrow walkways.

Steves’ self-guided walking tours tell you exactly how long you should expect to walk, when the best time of day is for each particular tour, and the hours of museums and other spots along the way. He also guides you to nearby places for a snack, coffee or beer, many with their own intriguing histories. The included tour maps are spot on, and Rick’s witty jokes and puns aren’t so bad either. If time permits, Bob and I try and take as many Rick Steves’ self-guided walking tours as we can, for every city that he publishes books. The tours are free (but for the price of the guidebook), you can take them at your own pace, and if you’re lucky, you might just get a kiss from your partner.

Renewing TSA PreCheck and Global Entry

Nancy and I recently renewed our five-year memberships in the TSA PreCheck and Global Entry programs, because I think we can all agree that navigating airports is a challenge to just about anyone’s serenity. It all adds up to a stressful experience: arranging transportation, arriving early enough (but not too early!), making sure your liquids are properly sized and stored, and having your ID and boarding pass at the ready. Then you immediately begin the scramble of removing said liquids, laptops, phones, belts, shoes, and everything else in your pockets for a precious few moments, only to gather them all up, get them all back where they belong, and move along so the next poor soul can do the same. Even as a frequent traveler, who feels organized and prepared for the security skirmish, I always end up more than just a bit disheveled and disoriented. Truth is, I often start that way, but you get my drift.

So I’m interested in anything that eases that process. Unfortunately the world of private jets, and their nearly non-existent security processes, are far beyond our means. As a fairly frequent flyer, I really like the Global Entry program. For $100 and little bit of your time, Global Entry helps you speed through immigration and customs when re-entering the USA, and includes TSA PreCheck, which helps you speed through TSA security lines at participating US airports.

Initially I found it a bit confusing, but they are in fact two separate but related programs. TSA PreCheck is $85 for five years. But for $100 (an extra $15), you can also get Global Entry. Therefore the only reason to limit yourself to PreCheck is if you are 100% certain you will not leave the country for the five-year duration of your membership. Seems to me that the extra $15 is worth it just in case.

Five years ago, Nancy and I signed up for both programs to see how they worked. With TSA PreCheck, we go to a separate and always much shorter line, and are not required to remove shoes, laptops, liquids, belts or jackets. And for us that makes a big difference. More than 200 US airports and 73 airlines offer PreCheck and only once that I can remember was PreCheck unavailable. And with Global Entry, many, many times we have sped past long customs lines full of tired and understandably irritated fellow travelers to the automated Global Entry kiosks. Turns out we liked both programs a lot. It was an easy decision to renew for another five years.

Like the original application process, renewal was straightforward. Fill out an online questionnaire and schedule an in-person interview. Both times it was the interview scheduling that posed the greatest logistical hurdle, mostly because our little airport in Medford, Oregon does not do the interviews.

Although there are nearly 400 enrollment centers where TSA interviews take place, sometimes booking a time slot can be a little tough. For me, there were no available times on the west coast that met my travel schedule. Eventually, I was able to arrange a time several months out during a long layover we had coming up at New York’s JFK airport. A customer recently told us that she had to schedule her interview in Portland one year ahead of time. She also noted that she has received a few emails from the TSA encouraging her to “drop in” to a participating airport’s enrollment center for an interview. Nancy and I tried to do just that at SFO five years ago on our first go ‘round, and we were practically laughed out of the office. But perhaps things have changed in the interim.

The renewal process did pose a curious question, as I was required to interview again but Nancy was not. She was issued her Trusted Traveler Global Entry ID renewal straight away after applying online, while I was required to interview to complete the process. Who knows why? Other than my 2015 trip to India, we’d visited all the same countries during our five years in the program. However, upon review, Nancy believes it is possible she omitted Jordan from the “countries visited” on her renewal form. Nevertheless, after all that, my interview occurred almost exactly at the scheduled hour and lasted less than five minutes. A few weeks later, I received my renewed Trusted Traveler Global Entry ID in the mail and I was good to go for another five years.

For us, the $100 Global Entry/TSA PreCheck fee is worth it. We average about five round trip flights a year. Over five years that’s 25 trips, and because you go through security both ways, that’s 50 times through security. That’s $2 per TSA encounter. It’s pretty much an official bribe – kind of like slipping someone a couple of bucks to skip to the front of the line. And that’s before factoring in time saved at immigration and customs. I’ll take it.